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Title: Collected Stories
Author: Louisa Baldwin
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605111.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Collected Stories
Louisa Baldwin


How He Left the Hotel
Many Waters Cannot Quench Love


I used to work the passenger lift in the Empire Hotel, that big block
of building in lines of red and white brick like streaky bacon, that
stands at the corner of Bath Street. I'd served my time in the army
and got my discharge with good conduct stripes, and how I got the job
was in this way.

The hotel was a big company affair, with a managing committee of
retired officers and such like, gentlemen with a bit o' money in the
concern and nothing to do but fidget about it, and my late Colonel was
one of 'em. He was as good tempered a man as ever stepped when his
will wasn't crossed, and when I asked him for a job, "Mole," says he,
"you're the very man to work the lift at our big hotel. Soldiers are
civil and business-like, and the public like 'em only second best to
sailors. We've had to give our last man the sack, and you can take his

I liked my work well enough and my pay, and kept my place a year, and
I should have been there still if it hadn't been for a circumstance--
but more about that just now. Ours was a hydraulic lift. None o' them
ricketty things swung up like a poll-parrot's cage in a well
staircase, that I shouldn't care to trust my neck to. It ran as smooth
as oil, a child might have worked it, and safe as standing on the
ground. Instead of being stuck full of advertisements like a' omnibus,
we'd mirrors in it, and the ladies would look at themselves, and pat
their hair, and set their mouths when I was taking 'em downstairs
dressed of an evening. It was a little sitting room with red velvet
cushions to sit down on, and you'd nothing to do but get into it, and
it 'ud float you up, or float you down, as light as a bird.

All the visitors used the lift one time or another, going up or coming
down. Some of them was French, and they called the lift the
"assenser," and good enough for them in their language no doubt, but
why the Americans, that can speak English when they choose, and are
always finding out ways o' doing things quicker than other folks,
should waste time and breath calling a lift an "elevator," I can't
make out.

I was in charge of the lift from noon till midnight. By that time the
theatre and dining-out folks had come in, and any one returning later
walked upstairs, for my day's work was done. One of the porters worked
the lift till I came on duty in the morning, but before twelve there
was nothing particular going on, and not much till after two o'clock.
Then it was pretty hot work with visitors going up and down constant,
and the electric bell ringing you from one floor to another like a
house on fire. Then came a quiet spell while dinner was on, and I'd
sit down comfortable in the lift and read my paper, only I mightn't
smoke. But nobody else might neither, and I had to ask furren
gentlemen to please not to smoke in it, it was against the rule. I
hadn't so often to tell English gentlemen. They're not like furreners,
that seem as if their cigars was glued to their lips.

I always noticed faces as folks got into the lift, for I've sharp
sight and a good memory, and none of the visitors needed to tell me
twice where to take them. I knew them, and I knew their floor as well
as they did themselves.

It was in November that Colonel Saxby came to the Empire Hotel. I
noticed him particularly because you could see at once that he was a
soldier. He was a tall, thin man about fifty, with a hawk nose, keen
eves, and a grey moustache, and walked stiff from a gunshot wound in
the knee.

But what I noticed most was the scar of a sabre cut across the right
side of the face. As he got in the lift to go to his room on the
fourth floor, I thought what a difference there is among officers.

Colonel Saxby put me in mind of a telegraph post for height and
thinness, and my old Colonel.was like a barrel in uniform, but a brave
soldier and a gentleman all the same. Colonel Saxby's room was number
210, just opposite the glass door leading to the lift, and every time
I stopped on the fourth floor Number 210 stared me in the face.

The Colonel used to go up in the lift every day regular, though he
never came down in it, till---but I'm coming to that presently.
Sometimes, when we was alone in the lift, he'd speak to me.

He asked me in what regiment I'd served, and said he knew the officers
in it. But I can't say he was comfortable to talk to. There was
something stand off about him, and he always seemed deep in his own
thoughts. He never sat down in the lift. Whether it was empty or full
he stood bolt upright, under the lamp, where the light fell on his
pale face and scarred cheek.

One day in February I didn't take the Colonel up in the lift, and as
he was regular as clockwork, I noticed it, but I supposed he'd gone
away for a few days, and I thought no more about it. Whenever I
stopped on the fourth floor the door of Number 210 was shut, and as he
often left it open, I made sure the Colonel was away. At the end of a
week I heard a chambermaid say that Colonel Saxby was ill, so thinks I
that's why he hadn't been in the lift lately.

It was a Tuesday night, and I'd had an uncommonly busy time of it. It
was one stream of traffic up and down, and so it went on the whole
evening. It was on the stroke of midnight, and I was about to put out
the light in the lift, lock the door, and leave the key in the office
for the man in the morning, when the electric bell rang out sharp. I
looked at the dial, and saw I was wanted on the fourth floor. It
struck twelve as I stept into the lift. As I past the second and third
floors I wondered who it was that had rung so late, and thought it
must be a stranger that didn't know the rule of the house. But when I
stopped at the fourth floor and flung open the door of the lift,
Colonel Saxby was standing there wrapped in his military cloak. His
room door was shut behind him, for I read the number on it. I thought
he was ill in his bed, and ill enough he looked, but he had his hat
on, and what could a man that had been in bed ten days want with going
out on a winter midnight? I don't think he saw me, but when I'd set
the lift in motion, I looked at him standing under the lamp, with the
shadow of his hat hiding his eyes, and the light full on the lower
part of his face that was deadly pale, the scar on his cheek showing
still paler.

"Glad to see you're better, sir," but he said nothing, and I didn't
like to look at him again. He stood like a statue with his cloak about
him, and I was downright glad when I opened the door for him to step
out in the hall. I saluted as he got out, and he went past me towards
the door.

"The Colonel wants to go out," I said to the porter who stood staring.
He opened the front door and Colonel Saxby walked out into the snow.

"That's a queer go," said the porter.

"It is," said I. "I don't like the Colonel's looks; he doesn't seem
himself at all. He's ill enough to be in his bed, and there he is,
gone out on a night like this."

"Anyhow he's got a famous cloak to keep him warm. I say, supposing
he's gone to a fancy ball and got that cloak on to hide his dress,"
said the porter, laughing uneasily. For we both felt queerer than we
cared to say, and as we spoke there came a loud ring at the door bell.

"No more passengers for me," I said, and I was really putting the
light out this time, when Joe opened the door and two gentlemen
entered that I knew at a glance were doctors. One was tall and the
other short and stout, and they both came to the lift.

"Sorry, gentlemen, but it's against the rule for the lift to go up
after midnight."

"Nonsense!" said the stout gentleman, "it's only just past twelve, and
it's a matter of life and death. Take us up at once to the fourth
floor," and they were in the lift like a shot.

When I opened the door, they went straight to Number 210. A nurse came
out to meet them, and the stout doctor said, "No change for the worse,
I hope." And I heard her reply, "The patient died five minutes ago,

Though I'd no business to speak, that was more than I could stand. I
followed the doctors to the door and said, "There's some mistake here,
gentlemen; I took the Colonel down in the lift since the clock struck
twelve, and he went out."

The stout doctor said sharply, "A case of mistaken identity. It was
someone else you took for the Colonel."

"Begging your pardon, gentlemen, it was the Colonel himself, and the
night porter that opened the door for him knew him as well as me. He
was dressed for a night like this, with his military cloak wrapped
round him."

"Step in and see for yourself," said the nurse. I followed the doctors
into the room, and there lay Colonel Saxby looking just as I'd seen
him a few minutes before. There he lay, dead as his forefathers, and
the great cloak spread over the bed to keep him warm that would feel
heat and cold no more. I never slept that night. I sat up with Joe,
expecting every minute to hear the Colonel ring the front door bell.
Next day every time the bell for the lift rang sharp and sudden, the
sweat broke out on me and I shook again. I felt as bad as I did the
first time I was in action.

Me and Joe told the manager all about it, and he said we'd been
dreaming, but, said he, "Mind you, don't you talk about it, or the
house'll be empty in a week."

The Colonel's coffin was smuggled into the house the next night. Me
and the manager, and the undertaker's men, took it up in the lift, and
it lay right across it, and not an inch to spare. They carried it into
Number 210, and while I waited for them to come out again, a queer
feeling came over me. Then the door opened softly, and six men carried
out the long coffin straight across the passage, and set it down with
its foot towards the door of the lift, and the manager looked round
for me.

"I can't do it, sir," I said. "I can't take the Colonel down again, I
took him down at midnight yesterday, and that was enough for me."

"Push it in!" said the manager, speaking short and sharp, and they ran
the coffin into the lift without a sound. The manager got in last, and
before he closed the door he said, "Mole, you've worked this lift for
the last time, it strikes me." And I had, for I wouldn't have staved
on at the Empire Hotel after what had happened, not if they'd doubled
my wages, and me and the night porter left together.


Did I not know my old friend John Horton to be as truthful as he is
devoid of imagination, I should have believed that he was romancing or
dreaming when he told me of a circumstance that happened to him some
thirty years ago. He was at that time a bachelor, living in London and
practising as a solicitor in Bedford Row. He was not a strong man,
though neither nervous nor excitable, and as I said before singularly

If Horton told you a fact, you might be certain that it had occurred
in the precise manner he stated. If he told it you a hundred times, he
would not vary it in the repetition. This literal and conscientious
habit of mind, made his testimony of value, and when he told me a fact
that I should have disbelieved from any other man, from my friend I
was obliged to accept it as truth.

It was during the long vacation in the autumn of 1857, that Horton
determined to take a few weeks' holiday in the country. He was such an
inveterate Londoner he had not been able to tear himself away from
town for more than a few days at a time for many years past. But at
length he felt the necessity for quiet and pure air, only he would not
go far to seek them. It was easier then than it is now to find a
lodging that would meet his requirements, a place in the country yet
close to the town, and it was near Wandsworth that Horton found what
he sought, rooms for a single gentleman in an old farm-house. He read
the advertisement of the lodgings in the paper at luncheon, and went
that very afternoon to see if they answered to the tempting
description given.

He had some little difficulty in finding Maitland's Farm. It was not
easy to find his way through country lanes that to his town eyes
looked precisely alike, and with nothing to indicate whether he had
taken a right or wrong turning. The railway now runs shrieking over
what were then green fields, lanes have been transformed into gas-
lighted streets, and Maitland's Farm, the old red brick house standing
in its high walled garden, has been pulled down long ago. The last
time Horton went to look at the old place it was changed beyond
recognition, and the orchard in which he gathered pears and apples
during his stay at the farm, was now the site of a public house and a
dissenting chapel.

It was on a hot afternoon early in September when Horton opened the
big iron gates and walked up the path bordered with dahlias and
hollyhocks leading to the front door, and rang for admittance at
Maitland's Farm. The bell echoed in a distant part of the empty house
and died away into silence, but no one came to answer its summons. As
Horton stood waiting he took the opportunity of thoroughly examining
the outside of the house. Though it was called a farm it had not been
built for one originally. It was a substantial, four-storey brick
house of Queen Anne's period, with five tall sash windows on each
floor, and dormer windows in the tiled roof. The front door was
approached by a shallow flight of stone steps, and above the fan-light
projected a penthouse of solidly carved woodwork. On either side were
brackets of wrought iron, supporting extinguishers that had quenched
the torch of many a late returning reveller a century ago. Only the
windows to right and left of the door had blinds or curtains, or
betrayed any sign of habitation. 'Those are the rooms to be let, I
wonder which is the bedroom,' thought my friend as he rang the bell
for the second time. Presently he heard within the sound of
approaching footsteps, there was a great drawing of bolts and after a
final struggle with the rusty lock, the door was opened by an old
woman of severe and cheerless aspect. Horton was the first to speak.

'I have called to see the rooms advertised to be let in this house.'
The old woman eyed him from head to foot without making any reply,
then opening the door wider, nodded to him to enter. He did so and
found himself in a large paved hall lighted from the fan-light over
the door, and by a high narrow window facing him at the top of a short
flight of oak stairs. The air was musty and damp as that of an old

'A hall this size should have a fire in it,' said Horton, glancing at
the empty rusty grate.

'Farmers and folks that work out of doors keep themselves warm without
fires,' said the old woman sharply.

'This house was never built for a farm, why is it called one?'
inquired Horton of his taciturn guide as she opened the door of the

'Because it was one,' was the blunt reply. 'When I was a girl it was
the Manor House, and may be called that again for all I know, but
thirty years since, a man named Maitland took it on a lease and farmed
the land, and folks forgot the old name, and called it Maitland's

'When did Maitland leave?'

'About two months ago.'

'Why did he go away from a nice place like this?'

'You are fond of asking questions,' remarked the old woman drily. 'He
went for two good reasons, his lease was up, and his family was a big
one. Nine children he had, from a girl of two-and--twenty down to a
little lad of four years old. His wife and him thought it best to take
'em out to Australia, where there's room for all. They were glad to
go, all but the eldest, Esther, and she nearly broke her heart over
it. But then she had to leave her sweetheart behind her. He's a young
man on a dairy farm near here, and though he's to follow her out and
marry her in twelve months, she did nothing but mourn, same as if she
was leaving him altogether.'

'Ah, indeed!' said Horton, who could not readily enter into details
about people whom he did not know. 'So this is the sitting-room; it's
large and airy, and has as much furniture in it as a man needs by
himself. Now show me the bedroom, if you please.'

'Follow me upstairs, sir,' and the old woman preceded him slowly up
the oak staircase, and opened the door of the back room on the first

'Then the bedroom that you let is not over the sitting-room?'

'No, the front room is mine, and the room next to it is my son's. He's
out all day at his work, but he sleeps here, and mostly keeps me
company of an evening. I'm alone here all day looking after the place,
and if you take the rooms I shall cook for you and wait on you

Horton liked the look of the bedroom. It was large and airy, with
little furniture in it beyond a bed and a chest of drawers. But it was
delicately clean, and silent as the grave. How a tired man might sleep
here! The walls were decorated with old prints in black frames of the
'Rake's Progress' and 'Marriage  la Mode', and above the high carved
mantelpiece hung an engraving of the famous portrait of Charles the
First, on a prancing brown horse.

'Those things were on the walls when the Maitlands took the place, and
they had to leave 'em where they found 'em,' said the old woman. 'And
they found that sword too,' she added, pointing to a rusty cutlass
that hung from a nail by the head of the bed; 'but I think they'd have
done no great harm if they'd sold it for old iron.'

Horton took down the weapon and examined it. It was an ordinary
cutlass, such as was worn by the marines in George the Third's reign,
not old enough to be of antiquarian interest, nor of sufficient beauty
of workmanship to make it of artistic value. He replaced it, and
stepped to the windows and looked into the garden below. It was
bounded by a high wall enclosing a row of poplars, and beyond lay the
open country, visible for miles in the clear air, a sight to rest and
fascinate the eye of a Londoner.

Horton made his bargain with the old woman whom the landlord had put
into the house as caretaker, pending his decision about the
disposition of the property. She was allowed to take a lodger for her
own profit, and as soon as Mrs Belt found that the stranger agreed to
her terms, she assured him that everything should be comfortably
arranged for his reception by the following Wednesday.

Horton arrived at Maitland's Farm on the evening of the appointed day.
A stormy autumnal sunset was casting an angry glow on the windows of
the house, the rising wind filled the air with mournful sounds, and
the poplars swayed against a background of lurid sky.

Mrs Belt was expecting her lodger, and promptly opened the door,
candle in hand, when she heard the wheels stopping at the gate. The
driver of the fly carried Horton's portmanteau into the hall, was paid
his fare, and drove away thinking the darkening lanes more cheerful
than the glimpse he had had of the inside of Maitland's Farm.

Horton was thoroughly pleased with his country quarters. The intense
quiet of the almost empty house, that might have made another man
melancholy, soothed and rested him. In the day time he wandered about
the country, or amused himself in the garden and orchard, and he spent
the long evenings alone, reading and smoking in his sitting-room. Mrs
Belt brought in supper at nine o'clock, and usually stayed to have a
chat with her lodger, and many a long story she related of her
neighbours, and the Maitland family, while she waited upon him at his
evening meal.

On several occasions she told him that Esther Maitland's sweetheart,
Michael Winn, had come to talk with her about the Maitlands, or to
bring her a newspaper containing tidings that their ship had reached
some point on its long voyage in safety.

'You see the Petrel is a sailing vessel, sir, and there's no saying
how long she'll take getting to Australia. The last news Michael had,
she'd got as far as some islands with an outlandish name, and he's had
a letter from Esther posted at a place called Madeira. And now he
gives himself no peace till he can hear that the ship's safe as far
as--somewhere, I think he said, in Africa.'

'It would be the Cape, Mrs Belt.'

'That's the name, sir, the Cape, and he werrits all the time for fear
of storms and shipwrecks.

But I tell him the world's a wide place, and the sea wider than all,
and very likely when the chimney pots is flying about our heads in a
gale here, the Petrel's lying becalmed somewhere.

And then he takes up my thought and turns it against me. "Yes," he
says, "and when it's a dead calm here on shore, the ship may be
sinking in a storm, and my Esther being drowned."'

'Michael Winn must be a very nervous young man.'

'That's where it is, sir, and I tell him when he follows the Maitlands
it's a good job that he leaves no one behind him that'll werrit after
him, the same as he's werrited after Esther.'

It was the middle of October, and Horton had been a month at the farm.
The weather was now cold and wet, and he began to think it was time he
returned to his snug London home, for the autumn rain made everything
at Maitland's Farm damp and mouldy. It had blown half a gale all day,
and the rain had fallen in torrents, keeping him a prisoner indoors.
But he occupied himself in writing letters, and reading some legal
documents his clerk had brought out to him, and the time passed
rapidly. Indeed the evening flew by so quickly he had no idea it was
nine o'clock, when Mrs Belt entered the room to lay the cloth for

'It's stopped raining now, sir,' she said, as she poked the fire into
a cheerful blaze, 'and a good job too, for Michael Winn brings me word
the Wandle's risen fearful since morning, and it's out in places more
than it's been for years. But there's a full moon tonight, so no one
need walk into the water unless they've a mind to.'

Horton's head was too full of a knotty legal point to pay much heed to
Mrs Belt, and the old woman, seeing that he was not in a mood for
conversation, said nothing further. At half-past ten she brought her
lodger some spirits and hot water, and his bedroom candle, and wished
him good night. Horton sat reading for some time, and then made an
entry in his diary concerning a day of which there was absolutely
nothing to record, lighted his candle, and went upstairs. I am
familiar with the precise order of each trifling circumstance. My
friend has so often told me the events of that night, and never with
the slightest addition or omission in the telling. It was his habit,
the last thing at night, to draw up the blinds. He looked out of the
window, and though the moon was at the full, the clouds had not yet
dispersed, and her light was fitful and obscure. It was twenty minutes
to twelve as he extinguished the candle by his bedside. Everything was
propitious for rest. He was weary, and the house profoundly silent.
The rain had stopped, the wind fallen to a sigh, and it seemed to him
that as soon as his head pressed the pillow he sank into a dreamless

Shortly after two o'clock Horton awoke suddenly, passing
instantaneously from deep sleep to the possession of every faculty in
a heightened degree, and with an insupportable sense of fear weighing
upon him like a thousand nightmares. He started up and looked around
him. The perspiration poured from his brow, and his heart beat to
suffocation. He was convinced that he had been waked by some strange
and terrible noise, that had thrilled through the depths of sleep, and
he dreaded the repetition of it inexpressibly. The room was flooded
with moonlight streaming through the narrow windows, lying like sheets
of molten silver on the floor, and the poplars in the garden cast
tremulous shadows on the ceiling.

Then Horton heard through the silence of the house a sound that was
not the moan of the wind, nor the rustling of trees, nor any sound he
had heard before. Clear and distinct, as though it were in the room
with him, he heard a voice of weeping and lamentation, with more than
human sorrow in the cry, so that it seemed to him as though he
listened to the mourning of a lost soul.

He leaped up, struck a match, and lighted the candle, and seizing the
cutlass that hung by the bed, unlocked the door, and opened it to

So far as all ordinary sounds were concerned, the house was silent as
death, and the moonlight streamed through the staircase window in a
flood of pale light. But the unearthly sound of weeping, thrilling
through heart and soul, came from the hall below, and Horton walked
downstairs to the landing at the top of the first flight. There, on
the lowest step, a woman was seated with bowed head, her face hidden
in her hands, rocking to and fro in extremity of grief.

The moonlight fell full on her, and he saw that she was only partly
clothed, and her dark hair lay in confusion on her bare shoulders.

'Who are you, and what is the matter with you?' said Horton, and his
trembling voice echoed in the silent house. But she neither stirred
nor spoke, nor abated her weeping. Slowly he descended the moon-lit
staircase till there were but four steps between him and the woman. A
mortal fear was growing upon him.

'Speak! if you are a living being!' he cried. The figure rose to its
full height, turned and faced him for a moment that seemed an
eternity, and rushed full on the point of the cutlass Horton
involuntarily presented. As the impalpable form glided up the blade of
the weapon, a cold wave seemed to break over him, and he fell in a
dead faint on the stairs.

How long he remained insensible he could not tell. When he came to
himself and opened his eyes, the moon had set, and he groped his way
in darkness to his room, where the candle had burnt itself out.

When Horton came down to breakfast, he looked as though he had been
ill for a month, and his hands trembled like a drunkard's. At any
other time Mrs Belt would have been struck by his appearance, but this
morning she was too much excited by some bad news she had heard, to
notice whether her lodger was looking well or ill. Horton asked her
how she had slept, for if she had not heard the terrible sounds that
waked him, it still seemed impossible she should not have heard his
heavy fall on the stairs. Mrs Belt replied, with some astonishment at
her lodger's concern for her welfare, that she had never had a better
night, it was so quiet after the wind fell.

'But did your son think the house was quiet, did he sleep too?' asked
Horton with feverish eagerness.

Mrs Belt was yearning to impart her bad news to her lodger, and
remarking that she had something else to do than ask folks how they
slept o' nights, she said a neighbour had just told her that Michael
Winn had fallen into the Wandle during the night--no one knew how--and
was drowned, and they were carrying his body home then.

'What a terrible blow for his sweetheart,' said Horton, greatly

'Aye! there's a pretty piece of news to send her, when she's expecting
to see poor Michael himself soon.'

'Mrs Belt, have you any portrait of Esther Maitland you could show me?
I've heard the girl's name so often I'm curious to know what she is
like.' And the old woman retired to hunt among her treasures for a
small photograph on glass, that Esther had given her before she went

Presently Mrs Belt returned, polishing the picture with her apron.

'It's but a poor affair, sir, taken in a caravan on the Common, yet
it's like the girl, it's very like.'

It was a miserable production, a cheap and early effort in
photography, and Horton rose from the table with the picture in his
hand to examine it at the window. And there, surrounded by the thin
brass frame, he recognised the face of all faces that had dismayed
him, the face he beheld in the vision of the preceding night. He
suppressed a groan, and turned from the window with a face so white,
that, as he handed the picture back to Mrs Belt, she said, 'You're not
feeling well this morning, sir.'

'No, I'm feeling very ill. I must get back to town today to be near to
my own doctor. You shall be no loser by my leaving you so suddenly,
but if I am going to be ill, I am best in my own home.' For Horton
could not have stayed another night at Maitland's Farm to save his

He was at his office in Bedford Row by noon, and his clerks thought
that he looked ten years older for his visit to the country.

A little more than three weeks after Horton returned to town, when his
nerves were beginning to recover their accustomed tone, his attention
was unexpectedly recalled to the abhorrent subject of the apparition
he had seen. He read in his daily paper that the mail from the Cape
had brought news of the wreck of the sailing vessel Petrel bound for
Australia, with loss of all on board, in a violent storm off the
coast, shortly before the steamer left for England. By a careful
comparison of dates, allowing for the variation of time, the
conviction was forced upon John Horton that the ill-fated ship
foundered at the very hour in which he beheld the wraith of Esther
Maitland. She and her lover, divided by thousands of miles, both
perished by drowning at the same time---Michael Winn in the little
river at home, and Esther Maitland in the depths of a distant ocean.


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